A shameful betrayal of victims of the Troubles

My sister Maxine Hambleton was murdered in the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974. The decision by Boris Johnson’s government to introduce a statute of limitations on atrocities linked to the bizarrely named “Troubles” (Report, 14 July) is yet another punch in the face for the victims of terrorism linked to Ireland.

Once an amnesty is granted to terrorists and murderers, we can forget about the rule of law. Our government will have replaced it with the rule of the gun and the bomb. History shows that when you allow murderous zealots the opportunity to slaughter without any repercussions, they revel in that weakness.

The terrorist killers will celebrate their escape from prosecution and see it as the ultimate justification of their vile actions. Knowing that there is no political will to see justice done will simply strengthen the resolve of these killers, while the victims’ families will be left with the knowledge that their government does not give a damn for their suffering.

Every political party in Northern Ireland disagrees with the proposed legislation, as do victim support groups across the United Kingdom and Ireland, but our political masters know best, and we are expected to touch our forelocks and thank them for representing the murdered victims’ interests so unsympathetically.

The Conservative party claims to be the party of law and order. If Tory MPs allow this proposal to pass into law, that claim should be discarded forever. From that point on, it should only ever be regarded as the party that puts terrorists before victims. It will be the party that allowed murderers to walk away from their violent crimes without fear of ever being brought to justice.

I now finally understand why members of the government are against taking the knee in support of Black Lives Matter. It’s not just black lives, in their eyes no lives matter.
Jayne Hambleton

Simon Jenkins (Only by forgiving – and forgetting – can Ireland move on from its past, 17 July), I trust, agrees that forgiveness is for the surviving victims to offer or not. It is an individual act depending on a range of personal factors and circumstances with no greater morality attaching to one choice than the other.

Another Simon – Wiesenthal – wrote The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness, telling the autobiographical story of being asked as a Jewish slave/orderly in an SS hospital for forgiveness by a dying soldier. The book asks 44 people recognised for their wisdom and experiences: would you forgive in such circumstances? The result is nothing remotely like consensus.

No one knew better than Wiesenthal that pursuing the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity rarely results in a just and satisfying outcome for the victims. But that possibility should not be closed by a statute of limitations. For a fair few people throughout this country, whether in Belfast or Birmingham, when an egregious crime is alleged, being heard as an individual or as a family in court matters, whatever the outcome.

A truth and reconciliation commission makes no sense at all unless it has the authentic support of the majorities in both Northern Ireland communities and among others. Yes, much of the evidence for court may grow cold over time. But the denial of access to individual justice as most of us understand it only adds to the trauma, which in some families will last several generations. As to forgetting, as the man said, the past isn’t even past.
Andrew Shacknove

Your editorial (The troubles legacy row: no solution at all, 15 July) contends that by uniting the Northern Ireland parties in opposition to a proposed statute of limitations, the government has unveiled a novel variation on a tried and tested principle. This should come as no surprise. Whether it be on Northern Ireland, plans for voter ID or border control in the time of a pandemic, the prime minister has consistently been the source of policy mutations. We are truly living in the age of the Johnson variant.
Jeremy Waxman

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